People”, I’m hoping 2021 brings us the close of the COVID-19 Pandemic so we can return to a normal way of living. As we look back on the past year and evaluate the changes we have had to make, it is safe to say that very few good things have come from life during Covid times.
However, families returning to cooking at home and eating around the dinner table at home certainly tops the short list. Virtual medical visits and the appreciation of shopping local are also on the list I’m keeping.
Naming foods after famous people is less popular today than it was in the 18th and 19th centuries. It remained a popular thing to do in the 20th century, but what you will read in my upcoming columns will take us back at least a hundred years and often times longer. I love history. I love food. I love recipe development. I love tablescaping. What you will find each weekend in my post might be a little bit of all these loves!
In 1871, Russia’s Tsar Alexander II decided to send his fourth son, Alexi, on a grand tour of America. To give us a little perspective, Alexi III grew to be the Emperor of Russia and the father of Tsar Nicolas II who was killed with his family in 1917.
Alexi was sent on this grand tour because he was having an inappropriate relationship with a not too respectful woman! The Tsar wasn’t having that, so the best way to separate the two was to send the Grand Duke on a long trip!
Our delicious soup was prepared for the Grand Duke Alexi III when he visited New York City. A banquet recognizing his visit was held at Delmonico’s, and history tells us that he favored the restaurant and ate there frequently.
Many recipes from this era include the ingredient of crawfish. Crawfish have been eaten by humans since the earliest times. They are the freshwater equivalent of the saltwater lobster, but much smaller. However, as I read some of the recipes from the 1800s, I’ve come to believe that crawfish were much larger in those days. In the United States, we’ve come to associate crawfish with Louisiana cooking, and most of the product comes from the inland waters of Louisiana. They are popular in other places, too. In the northeast, they are called crayfish. In the Midwest and middle coastal region … and in parts of the southwest, they are called crawdads. In the south, they are called crawfish!
In Ranhofer’s recipe for this soup, he instructs us to cook the crawfish and pulverize the bodies … and stuff that back into the tails … then add it to the soup at the end. I cannot imagine trying to do that with the crawfish we use today! As always, I’ve adjusted the original recipe to something manageable. It is important to note, though, that this soup isn’t full of vegetables! It is all about the lobster and crawfish.
When we tested this recipe at our final Sunday Dinner of 2020, my family gave it all the gold stars available! As they used a slotted spoon to make sure they had gotten all the lobster and crawfish from the soup tureen, I knew it was truly delicious!
2 lobster tails
1 quart of fish stock
Lobster or crabmeat bullion
Half a stick of butter
4 Tablespoons flour
2 cups of Half and HalfA sprig of rosemaryBlack pepper to taste
In a big pot, cook the lobster tails, shells and all. Bring 5 cups of water and the tails to a boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer and when the lobster tails float, they are done. Remove the tails, but add 2 Tablespoons of the lobster bullion to the broth and continue to let it simmer. You’ll end up with 4 cups of fish stock, so you won’t need to purchase it prepackaged. After the tails cool, remove the meat and chop it in big bite-size chunks!
In a heavy skillet, gently melt the butter; chop the scallions (tops, too) and sauté them in the butter until they are soft. Stir in the flour and make a roux. Pour a little broth into the roux to loosen it, then ... Transfer the roux to the soup pot and whisk it into the broth. Now it is time to add the rosemary to the broth. Add the crawfish tails and the chopped lobster and let the soup continue to simmer for 20 minutes. Add a generous amount of black pepper and pour in the Half and Half. When the soup comes back to a serving temperature, you are all finished. If it isn’t as thick as you’d like, the quickest remedy is to add powdered mashed potato flakes (instant). That will save any creamed soup and you’ll never taste the potatoes! Don’t over do it, though … add a spoonful at a time!